This has been a particularly wild week in Maine politics on account of the cascading, racially-charged and occasionally violent outbursts of our governor, Paul Lepage. National networks have sent teams to the State House in Augusta, my Portland Press Herald colleagues have been interviewed by everyone from the Washington Post to MSNBC to the NBC Nightly News.
Everyone it seems wants to know who this LePage guy is and why he behaves as he does.
My contribution for the day was this explainer-meets-news update for The Guardian, which ran this morning. The paper's subhead: "Who is Governor Paul Lepage, the Donald Trump supporter mulling resignation after racist comments and an obscenity-laced voicemail to a legislator?"
If you're looking for more context, here's a piece I did for Politico in the wee hours after the 2014 election, explaining how he got re-elected; another Politico story from the summer of 2015, which will catch you up on the last time he seriously went off the rails and, for the real scholars out there, my two-part, 10,000-word biography of the governor, which ran in the Portland Phoenix in January 2012. (Thanks to the Fund for Investigative Journalism for supporting that project.)
The media is a fickle beast, and most especially the British print variety, which suddenly last week decided they needed breaking news about Blackbeard, the infamous pirate who died 298 years ago. Thus, out of the blue, some of the revelations my nine year old biography of Blackbeard and his gang, The Republic of Pirates, have been making headlines there.
It started with the Bristol Post, the daily in the city that may have been Blackbeard's port of birth. Someone there discovered the two-year old U.K edition of the book and, therein, that Blackbeard's real name was actually Edward Thatch, rather than Edward Teach as is commonly thought. I had an enjoyable conversation with reporter Tristan Cork, who wrote this piece, "Bristol pirate Blackbeard's real name was NOT Edward Teach, American historian conforms." He includes my full email response to his question on this score, for those wanting the details.
The next day, an editor for SWNS.com, a news and PR site out of Bristol contacted me on behalf of the Daily Mail, which apparently outsources to them the troublesome task of actually reporting their stories. I had a thoughtful interview with one of their reporters about Blackbeard, which informed this Daily Mail story on Thursday. The Mail managed to get my name wrong and the erroneously state that I'm based in New York and the byline for the story is of someone I never spoke to. They go on to, ironically enough, report how "the guidebooks, plaques, posters, and history books have been getting [Blackbeard's] name wrong all this time." Fancy that.
The Sun, not to be left out, ran this story Friday which, umm, "borrows" all of its reporting from the Daily Mail story. The tabloid -- Britain's largest circulation paper -- is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
In any case, I'm pleased the pirates' story is getting attention in the country where many of them were born, and glad that my newspaper career has largely centered on this side of the Atlantic.
Atlantic puffins have been facing challenges as the Gulf of Maine has continued to warm in the past decade. The birds, which breed in several colonies off the Maine coast, must find fish to bring back to their chicks in their burrows. If the right food can't be found, the chicks will starve.
In yesterday's Portland Press Herald, reported the sad news that the largest colony in the Gulf of Maine -- at Machias Seal Island -- this summer experienced the worst such food famine in the 31 years researchers have been tracking the birds there. The smaller colonies off midcoast Maine -- including Eastern Egg Rock -- fared better.
For broader context, we covered the puffins' problems in 2012-2015 in "Mayday", the Press Herald's six-part series on climate change in the Gulf of Maine, which was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.
Here in Maine, the most important electoral issue to be resolved in November -- aside from who will be the President of the United States -- is which party will control the two houses of the state legislature. Currently Democrats control the House, while Republicans have the Senate and the governor's mansion.
Bottom line: Democrats currently have a roughly two-to-one advantage in this regard, mostly because they've received big contributions from the national party (and the Republicans have not.) Even more interesting for politicos is where the money comes from and, perhaps, who the respective parties owe one to.
A lot of cities have worked to repurpose their manufacturing districts. Milwaukee has doubled-down on the largest of theirs, creating a model for what the 21st century industrial park might look like. Mixing recreational, environmental, and manufacturing uses, the Menomonee Valley has filled with tenants from near and far. It's the topic of my latest installment in Politico's "What Works" series, which posted Thursday night.
WNPR, the Hartford-based flagship of Connecticut Public Radio, has launched a new show on New England. NEXT, which will roll out under the auspices of public radio's New England reporting collaborative, will eventually be syndicated throughout the region.
I was very pleased to be a part of their inaugural episode, talking about the origins of New England's identity, its expansion across a swath of the continent, and the conflicts it has with neighboring cultures, like the Dutch-founded region around what is now New York City, or the Scots-Irish influenced Greater Appalachian region. Readers of American Nations, American Character, and Lobster Coast will recognize much of what we spoke about.
The episode premiered on the stations of Connecticut public radio on Thursday afternoon and is available online now. (My segment starts at 19:20.) It also airs:
On New Hampshire Public Radio today, Aug. 6, at 10 pm.
On Vermont Public Radio Sunday, Aug. 7, at noon.
On the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network again Sunday, Aug. 7, at 6 pm.
Thanks to producer Andrea Muraskin and host John Dankosky for having me on.
The event kicks off at 7pm. My talk keys off my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas (which took me all over the world) and my recent Portland Press Herald series, "Mayday", in how climate change is effecting the Gulf of Maine (which was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.)
I am an award-winning journalist and author of American Nations, American Character, Ocean's End, The Lobster Coast, and The Republic of Pirates. I'm a staffer at the Portland Press Herald, where I won a 2012 George Polk Award for my investigative reporting and was named a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist.